Started by Todd, April 06, 2007, 07:22:52 AM
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Quote from: XB-70 Valkyrie on May 12, 2007, 09:18:15 PMIf you want to get into Debussy's piano music some more, you MUST buy this set:
Quote from: Todd on May 12, 2007, 07:41:14 PMThat's a young Val Kilmer in the great comedy Top Secret!
Quote from: Todd on April 28, 2007, 06:43:48 PMHow does one approach a recording like Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's final recording of orchestral love songs written for her by her husband? There's certainly the potential for hagiography and exaggeration given the tragic circumstances, but I opted just to listen and gauge whether I like the music for what it is. Previously I'd only heard the late Mrs Lieberson in two other works: Handel's Theodora under William Christie, and Mahler's Second under Michael Tilson Thomas. In both cases she more or less made the recording, the former especially. In this disc she is the recording. Everything about it is very clearly meant for her and she delivers the goods. The disc contains settings of five love poems penned by Pablo Neruda, which the Liebersons selected together. The great care I imagine they devoted to the project pays off.The first two names that jumped immediately into my mind within the first few notes are Mahler and Berg. Since I like Mahler and Berg, that's quite alright with me. My first overall impression of the music and performance, and one that stayed as I listened to the whole work, was one of intense, personal music. These are not necessarily grand orchestral songs, but rather are intimate selections, and Mrs Lieberson nails every song with such delicate nuance and subtle inflection and communicative power that one just sits and revels in the music. The close miking helps bring out every last expressive gesture in her voice. The orchestral writing is mostly "modern," in an early-20th Century kind of way, though there are more than a few moments of exquisite beauty. All of the songs work well, with the absolutely wonderful My love, if I die and you don't that closes the disc a rather obvious and moving farewell, which brings to mind Strauss' closer to the Four Last Songs. And this song is as good as that one. For me, though, the highlight is the third song – Don't go far off, not even for a day, because – which is a perfect synthesis of text, music, and interpretation. The winding, gripping music and lyrics set the stage for singing of a very high order indeed. At times throughout the disc it may be possible to hear hints of excess or self-indulgence, but if there is any subject that not only withstands but benefits from such things, it's love, especially in the circumstances here. I very much like this disc. When it comes to orchestral songs I still prefer some other works – by the three other composers mentioned here for starters – but this disc is superb. For me it serves as a primer to explore more of Peter Lieberson's music, and it also obviously stands as a monument to the late Mrs Lieberson. Here's a work where it may be fine if no other recordings are ever made. Really, what would be the point, and who could ever compare?
Quote from: Todd on May 13, 2007, 08:14:00 AMThis set cements Conlon Nancarrow's standing for me: he's among the greats of the 20th Century. His music is unique, and there's just so much there. Were I a musicologist, I could probably devote years to analyzing the music. I'd rather listen to it, though. I'd rather listen to the myriad ideas bursting out of the archaic, almost silly instrument. Nothing else is like it. This is an amazing set, certainly one of the best purchases of the year for me, and one I shall return to time and again. If you are even remotely adventurous, do consider some of this music. The set is available in separate volumes, and as referred to before, MDG is recording a "competing" cycle played on a Bösendorfer. I'm pretty sure I'll be getting that, too. Sound is close and dry and analytical and reveals everything. While I was able to listen to two discs straight through, I usually had to split up listening sessions to allow for some aural relaxation. But I always came back for more. Amazing stuff.
Quote from: Todd on April 06, 2007, 07:24:48 AMHere's a composer new to me. To the extent I'd even seen Leonardo Balada's name before it was only in ads. That's a shame. I picked up the Naxos disc devoted to his Guernica, Homage to Sarasate, Homage to Casals, Fourth Symphony, and a suite derived from his opera Zapata, appropriately entitled Zapata: Images for Orchestra. In many ways Balada is what I'm looking for in new music, and here that means music from as recent as 1992 (the symphony). He blends folk music a la Bartok and Ives, intense modernism, and avant garde elements calling to mind Ligeti, among others. The music on this disc never sounds academic or merely analytical; there's the spark of life to all of it. Guernica, from 1966, opens the disc, and the piece is inspired by Picasso's work of the same name, and both depict, rather gruesomely, the Spanish Civil War. The piece does about as good a job translating the image to music as I can imagine, though perhaps others can imagine a better visual-to-aural transcription. (If so, they should write it down.) It's chaotic and violent and confused and ugly and vibrant, and has the musical equivalent of an explosion right in the middle. It's a dense, short work of just over 11 minutes, and while it's not easy listening, it's immensely gripping.The two homages are more deliberately avant garde, what with spooky high string notes and tremolos and disjointed elements coming and going. They seem somewhat less focused than the first work, but they are likewise compelling. The Fourth Symphony is an interesting work in that it was written for Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (hence its title "Lausanne"), and contains, the excellent liner notes report, elements of Swiss folk music. Again, it's a very modernist piece, but one informed by many moments of levity and textural lightness and even beauty. In some ways, the two homages and the symphony sound the same – a critique anti-modernists would no doubt level – but there's much more than enough musical food for thought in each piece.The final work is the suite derived from Zapata. What a collection! The first movement, a Waltz, sounds just like a 19th Century waltz and falls beautifully on the ears, with delicate string writing. The piece slowly transmogrifies into grotesque, almost chaotic music meant to symbolize a firing squad. It's very effective. The March starts and stays grotesque in the best Expressionist-cum-trippy-avant-garde fashion, at times sounding like (disturbed) cartoon music. The wonderful Elegy is apparently lifted straight from the opera, with a solo cello taking Zapata's part and a solo violin his dying brother's part. The work closes with a Wedding Dance using Jarabe Tapatio (which pretty much everyone knows) as its recurring theme, which Balada then spins out in different directions while weaving in his own music most expertly. It's sort of like what Ives did, but more sophisticated.This is one heck of a disc, and I now know I must explore more of Balada's music. Pronto. Excellent sound.
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